Crazy Uncle Rich’s 2014 Halloween Round-up!

Posted on October 22, 2014


8653e-poltYes, kiddies, it’s that time of year again. Crazy Uncle Rich (and his long-suffering wife) watch a ton of genre movies so you don’t have to.

This is only Part 1, because there are just too many movies to fit into one post. Plus, we haven’t had time to watch them all yet.

Ready? Too bad!


For those of you who are new since last year, welcome! The following movies are all science-fiction, fantasy, or horror genre films. Their unifying thread is that they are all supposed to be scary. YMMV. Mine certainly did. I’ve organized them by the date of their releases (according to IMDB), and not according to any rating system or preference. Films all released the same year are alphabetical.

Vampyr (1932)

vampyr_poster_01A young man out hunting butterflies spends a night in a village inn. That night, an older man comes to his room uninvited and insists that “She must never know.” The next day the young man investigates, and discovers evidence of vampires.

This movie didn’t survive WWII well. There is no extant English-language version. The DVD is assembled from the French and German versions. The national censors had different requirements, so the original cuts varied from each other, making the assembled version slightly disjointed.

It’s a spooky old horror movie, with great mood and atmosphere. It is not gory, and more interesting than scary.

The Hole (2001)

xX00zQi6BSbJb1eoc905eoz8MdeWe saw this movie because the marketing made it sound like four college friends looking for a private place to party find themselves locked in a WWII bunker with something horrible.

That’s mostly true. It’s just that the “something horrible” is them. In fact, I liked that most of the movie happens in flashback, as the sole survivor talks with police and psychologists. Otherwise, there would only be the four unpleasant college students. I like Thora Birch and Keira Knightley as much as the next straight male, but these characters are not nice people.

There’s some gore and violence, but the movie is more psychologically interesting than scary. The way the survivor manipulates people throughout the film is genuinely disturbing, but it’s not a movie that stays with you.

The Children (2008)

the children posterKids are scary, as this movie amply demonstrates. Two couples retreat to a country house for the holidays, only to find that the rest of the world is unresponsive when things go wrong.

This movie uses shocking imagery to frighten you. It’s well-constructed. We understood why the adults placed blame the way they did, and why it took them so long to realize their youngest children were the killers.

Do not see this movie unless you want to suspect all small children as potential killers for the next several weeks. This movie will get in your head.

Monsters (2010)

monsters-posterA journalist and an heiress find themselves traveling through northern Mexico on foot, trying to avoid the alien monsters quarantined there.

This movie uses science-fiction to examine the ways in which we take political and military action based on fears rather than on real information.

Fortunately, it gives us two likeable characters with believable chemistry to follow through the story. In fact, the actors married after filming.

The director went on to direct Godzilla (see my review here), so give this one a look if you want to get drawn in by ideas and imagery rather than shocked by gore and jump scares.

Saint Nick (2010)

Yet another movie that doesn't know how to release images for its own marketing.

Yet another movie that doesn’t know how to release images for its own marketing.

In this Dutch movie, every year there is a full moon on December 5th, a greedy, murderous, 17-th century cleric rises from his watery grave to kidnap children and slaughter everyone who gets in his way.

There’s a whole sub-genre of horror movies that takes place during various holidays. We all know the point of them is to give us an excuse to grab onto our dates in a dark movie theater. Saint Nick falls squarely into that genre. It knows its roots, and honors them.

The juxtaposition of bloody horror with a wholesome winter holiday works. The revelations of how much the government knows, and what it does to keep the periodic mass murders secret are genuinely creepy. The last scene is a shout-out to the fans who prefer gory horror to holiday schmalz.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

beasts-of-the-southern-wild-movie-posterThis beautiful movie tells the story of little Hushpuppy who lives with her father outside the levees of New Orleans. A great storm comes, forcing their community to take decisive action, and suffer the consequences of their choices.

Nominated for four Academy Awards, and winner of 91 other awards, this movie is a masterclass in magical realism.

Crazy Uncle Rich knows what you’re thinking: So how did it get on this list?

Good question. The marketing material uses images of the “aurochs” in a way that, combined with the title, makes this seem like a post-apocalyptic monster movie.

It is not. Thinking of it that way does it a disservice. In fact, I thought the aurochs were symbols of the strength and power of the children in the movie.

When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces. When I look too hard, it goes away. And when it all goes quiet, I see they are right here. I see that I’m a little piece in a big, big universe. And that makes things right. When I die, the scientists of the future, they’re gonna find it all. They gonna know, once there was a Hushpuppy, and she live with her daddy in the Bathtub.

Byzantium (2012)

byzantium_posterI won’t lie. I saw this movie because Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan. What I got was the best vampire movie of the last ten years (but I haven’t seen Last Lovers Left Alive yet, and I’m a Jim Jarmusch fan…).

Neil Jordan directs, he of The Company of Wolves, High Spirits, Interview with the Vampire, The Crying Game, Michael Collins, and Ondine. He creates a beautiful, moody, movie of the story of a vampire and her daughter hiding in a down-market seaside vacation town in England. Mom sets up a bordello to cover their expenses, and daughter goes to school, but their past catches up with them.

If you’re expecting a Hollywood/Anne Rice style vampire movie, forget it. This movie goes back to the old folklore on which Bram Stoker based Dracula. Many folks assume vampires can’t be out in the sun, for example, but that’s a Hollywood invention not backed up by the stories.

This movie has violence, some gore, and a gripping story. It’s a horror movie because it is genuinely scary, and not just because it’s a vampire movie.

One of my favorites of 2014.

Cockneys vs Zombies (2012)

Cockneys vs ZombiesI’m just going to be upfront about this: Cockneys vs Zombies is the second of my favorites from this year. It is just that good. Performances by Alan Ford (Bricktop in Snatch), Michelle Ryan (The Bionic Woman reboot, Doctor Who), Honor Blackman (pre-Diana Rig The Avengers, and Pussy Galore in Goldfinger), and Dudley Sutton (Lovejoy, among other things) make this worth seeing.

In East London, developers are evicting some pensioners from their old folks home when construction workers open a vault sealed at the end of the great plague in London (and about the time of the Great London Fire). Thus freed, the zombies begin their battle. Standing against them are the pensioners, and a gang put together by two grandkids. Fortunately, the kids just came from robbing a bank to get the money to save the pensioners, so they’re strapped.

If you’re expecting a serious zombie movie after all that, you’re barking up the wrong tree. This movie uses zombies to reveal the strength of family bonds, the value of friendship, and that strength changes form with age but doesn’t go away.

See this one!

Storage 24 (2012)

storage-24-03A disparate group of people find themselves in a 24-hour self storage business, unaware that a military plane has crashed in London, sending the city into lockdown.

The evolution of the character Mickey on Doctor Who made me a fan of actor Noel Clarke. He’s good here, again. Beyond that, though, the movie isn’t particularly scary or memorable. It’s another in the genre of locked-in-with-a-monster.

See Attack the Block instead.

Dead in Tombstone (2013)

65I love Westerns, and they don’t make many any more. So I tend to watch them when they come along. In this Western, an outlaw (Danny Trejo) gets betrayed by his lieutenant (Anthony Michael Hall) and murdered. In Hell, the devil (Mickey Rourke) makes a deal: He’ll give the outlaw thirteen hours back on Earth to kill his former gang and send them down to Hell. The catch is, they must all die within the time limit and at the hands of the outlaw.

It’s a mediocre action movie with supernatural elements, but it’s hardly a horror film.

Odd Thomas (2013)

Best I could do.

Best I could do.

Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Terminator Salvation, Fright Night) is a short-order cook living in Pico Mundo, New Mexico. He’s destined to be with the love of his life, Stormy (Addison Timlin), forever. The biggest obstacle between them is that Odd sees dead people. The difference between Odd and other characters is that Odd takes action. When the ghosts of the wrongly deceased appear, Odd finds out enough to bring in the police.

There’s way too much back story, and far too much narration. In my opinion, voice-over narration means the filmmakers lacked faith both in the audience and in their story. They thought we would need a crutch to follow the action. If that’s true, either go back and re-work the story or accept that people are smart.

My favorite example of this is Blade Runner, where both Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott hated releasing the film with Ford’s voice-over narration. The studio insisted, though, and we were stuck with it until the director’s cut release.

Odd Thomas exists in an odd limbo. Based on the first of a series of novels by Dean Koontz, you’d think it would be a TV movie so many of his other books. On the other hand, it’s clearly got a motion picture budget and cast (including Willem Dafoe). It was, simply, bad timing. The movie includes a shoot-out in a shopping mall, right about the time such things were happening in real life. Poof, off it went into direct-to-video land.

The movie relies too much on CGI “bodaks” to be really scary. My adrenaline didn’t start flowing until the shooting started, because the living were far scarier than the bodaks or the ghosts. If you liked the books or you’re a Dean Koontz fan, this is an enjoyable way to pass some time.

Riddick (2013)


If you haven’t seen Pitch Black or The Chronicles of Riddick, it doesn’t matter. The story is simple enough. Riddick, a well-known criminal and escaped convict, is betrayed by his Necromonger subjects and trapped on a planet. He figures out how to survive, and in doing so regains his deadly edge. Then he realizes that there’s something far deadlier than him on the planet, and he broadcasts his location to lure in ships he can use to escape. The bounty hunters who answer the summons want his head, but they may be too late.

My big objection is that the movie is rated R solely because of a shower scene for Katee Sackhoff. It’s gratuitous, it’s sexist, and it demeans the movie and the cast. A man would have been just as vulnerable in that situation, and that would have made the scene more powerful.

It’s a science-fiction action movie with alien monsters, and Riddick is the scariest of them all. Vin Diesel does a fine job as Riddick, and the other actors sell their fear of the murderous criminal convincingly. The threat of the monsters is real, and frightening.

We had fun watching it, but we liked the previous two movies as well.

Rigor Mortis (2013)

700x985_movie10999postersrigor_mortis-hkIn the 1980s, there was a series of jiangshi (hopping vampire) movies. They’re usually referred to as Mr. Vampire or Magic Cop movies, after two of their titles. Ching-Ying Lam starred in those. Alas, he has passed away, but some of the rest of the cast reunite for this film.

If that doesn’t mean anything to you, let me help. A suicidal, out-of-work, actor moves into an apartment with a tragic past. One of his neighbors is a Confucian priest who trained to fight demons and vampires, and now find the world no longer needs him. Together they fight the furious spirits haunting the apartment building.

I’ve said, many times, that the essence of every story is a character in a context with a conflict. The character makes three attempts to resolve the conflict, learning from the first two failures enough to triumph on the third attempt. A significant difference that sets horror apart is that the character is too late. Either the character wins but dies, or learns a lesson too late to stop the horror. Another difference, by the way, is the high body count that piles up while the character tries and fails.

That puts Rigor Mortis squarely into the horror genre. The reason for the haunting is clear and well known, and is also truly horrible.

If you like Hong Kong action movies of the supernatural, you need to see Rigor Mortis.

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Posted in: Movies